ONE flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is ready to win his trilogy with Adriano Moraes at ONE Fight Night 10, then move on to other challenges in ONE Championship.
Ever since the former UFC flyweight champion signed with ONE, he was put on a collision course with then-champ Moraes, who had dominated the promotion’s flyweight division. But the pair weren’t matched up immediately.
Instead, Johnson was entered into the ONE flyweight grand prix tournament, where victories over Yuya Wakamatsu and Tatsumitsu Wada put him in the final, where a unanimous decision victory over Filipino contender Danny Kingad saw him crowned the ONE flyweight grand prix champion and punched his ticket to a hotly-anticipated championship bout with Moraes.
That fight didn’t go Johnson’s way, however, with the Brazilian looking more at home under ONE’s Global Ruleset that allowed knees to a grounded opponent. That change to the US-based Unified Rules of MMA proved crucial as Moraes knocked out “Mighty Mouse” with a knee while he was on the ground.
Johnson regrouped, then faced off against Muay Thai superstar Rodtang Jitmuangnon in a mixed-rules bout that saw him run the gauntlet of three minutes under Muay Thai rules, before the ruleset switched to MMA for the second stanza. Johnson held his own against the Thai striker in the first round, then dominated the second to force Rodtang to submit to a rear-naked choke.
It meant Johnson was back in the win column and a rematch with Moraes was quickly booked. This time “Mighty Mouse” was even more ready, and a flying-knee knockout saw him finish Moraes in spectacular fashion as he avenged his defeat and claimed the ONE flyweight title at ONE Fight Night 1 in Singapore.
Now the pair are set to face off for a third time in the main event of ONE Fight Night 10 on May 5 in Broomfield, Colorado as the promotion makes its debut on US soil. The flyweight title will be on the line once again, and Johnson isn’t resting on his laurels as he tweaks his game for the trilogy bout.
“I think the adjustment he’s going to make, he’s gonna go back and watch the second fight and and see what I was beating him at,” he told reporters during a media session at ONE Fight Night 6.
“Then, for me, I’m just going to train. I’m just gonna go out there and try to be the best Demetrious Johnson I can be.
“When we looked at the first fight against him, we saw a lot of things and then we were able to execute on the second fight. And for the third fight, I plan on doing the exact same thing, just being in better shape, faster, stronger, and take the fight to him.
“Even though I’m the champion. I’m always taking the fight to my opponents.”
Johnson has long been considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. It’s something he puts down to his constant desire to improve as a martial artist.
“I feel like in my whole entire career, I’ve always been growing and just understanding my style, and how is the best way for me to implement it depending on the opponent I’m fighting,” he explained.
“Obviously now people are seeing it more because I had to battle adversity when I fought Adriano Moraes the first time, and then taking that fight against Rodtang – an absolutely amazing fighter, doing one round Muay Thai, second round MMA, and then coming out victorious in that one and then going and fighting Adriano Moraes for the second time.
“A lot of athletes when they suffer a huge defeat and get knocked out, they get kind of gun shy but, for me, I think just more about my growth as a mixed martial artist and just getting better. That probably separates me different from the other people on the list of the greatest of all time.
Johnson’s focus is on his upcoming bout with Moraes, but he has already shown a willingness to step outside of his comfort zone in a bid to broaden his own skillset. He did it against Rodtang in their mixed-rules bout, and he has also stated his interest in grappling ONE flyweight submission grappling champion Mikey Musumeci, who has been a revelation since joining ONE.
Johnson is already reaping the benefits of his previous bout with Rodtang, and admitted that it has helped him to put his trust in his own striking.
“Yeah, I think my confidence came from when I fought Rodtang,” he said.
“Rodtang is probably one of the best strikers in the world – the heaviest hitter under ONE Championship’s banner. And I think me fighting him kind of gave me back my confidence that hey, I can stand and bang.”
That confidence helped Johnson blast his way to victory over Moraes in their second meeting, and he’s aiming to repeat the feat and put their rivalry to rest with another decisive win.
If he’s successful, Johnson knows the challenges won’t stop coming, and he has already identified his likely next challenger if he retains his title
“I think after (the Moraes trilogy fight) I’ll probably be facing Kairat Akhmetov, who I believe is the number-one contender in the flyweight division,” he said.
“He’s on a five-fight win streak. And we haven’t had locked horns yet. So I think it’ll probably be him and, after that, we’ll see what’s next.”